Ohioans across the political spectrum want common sense gun laws.
A recent Suffolk University/USA Today poll shows 92% of Ohioans want mandatory background checks for firearm purchases — including 99% Democrats and 88% Republicans.
But instead, the Republican-controlled Statehouse has loosened gun laws.
“Let’s call a spade a spade,” said Ohio House Minority Leader Allison Russo, D-Upper Arlington. “Ohio has some of the worst pro-gun crime and anti-cop-laws in the country. And nothing has been done about it.”
Russo and State Sen. Hearcel Craig, D-Columbus, joined Columbus city leaders in calling for common sense gun laws during a press conference in front of the Ohio Statehouse Thursday.
“No shooting death is just a number,” said Columbus Mayor Andrew J. Ginther. “It represents a father, a mother, brother, sister, a friend, a neighbor. And each one causes ever widening ripples of unspeakable grief, pain, and loss. … We need our state legislators to use every lever at their disposal to get the guns off our streets and bring down the violence.”
Common sense gun laws are not a knock against those who use weapons in appropriate ways, Craig said.
“This is about why do you have an automatic weapon to go deer hunting to shoot 30 bullets at a time?” he asked.
Gun violence is the leading cause of death for children in the United States.
“That should outrage every single citizen in this state,” Russo said. “These children deserve better. They deserve more from us. They deserve to be able to grow up in this state and have a thriving future.”
Firearms accounted for nearly a fifth of childhood deaths (ages 1-18) and nearly 3,600 children died in gun-related incidents in 2021, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Wonder database.
Kids worry about being gunned down when they go to school and play in the park, said Jene Patrick, with the nonprofit group Mothers of Murdered Columbus Children.
“Common sense gun laws allow our children to go to school and feel safe,” Patrick said. “It allows our children to go to playgrounds and ride our bikes throughout the neighborhood and feel comfortable.”
About three-fourths of Ohioans want laws mandating safe storage of guns and red flag laws that would allow family members or police to remove firearms from people they fear will harm themselves or others, according to the survey.
Ninety-two percent of Democrats and 65% Republicans are in support of safe storage gun laws.
When it came to red flag laws, 92% of Democrats and 59% of Republicans were in favor.
Eighty-eight percent of Ohioans want mandatory training for concealed carry licenses — including 96% Democrats and 83% Republicans, according to the survey.
The Suffolk University/USA Today poll surveyed 500 registered Ohio voters earlier this month over the phone. Their margin of error is +/- 4.4 percentage points.
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine signed a bill into law last year that got rid of all training, background check and permitting requirements to carry a concealed weapon.
“The laws they pushed through allow practically anyone to own a gun with zero training,” Ginther said. “That kind of Wild Wild West mentality has no chance of making our families or our officers safer. We need the state and federal governments to step up to help us keep illegal guns off our streets.”
A law went into effect in 2021 that no longer requires people to retreat before they can justifiably hurt or kill someone with a gun in self-defense.
DeWine also signed a bill into law that gives local boards of education the authority to decide whether to allow their teachers and school workers to carry firearms.
Twenty-two Ohio school districts and one Christian school have staff members who are either authorized or in the training process to carry weapons on school grounds as of March 31.
State Rep. Al Cutrona, R-Canfield, introduced a bill a couple months ago that would exempt guns and ammunition from sales tax in Ohio.
Some common sense legislation has been introduced, but hasn’t made it very far.
State Reps. Jessica Miranda, D-Forest Park, and Darnell T. Brewer, D-Cleveland, introduced a bill in May that would prohibit a person from not properly securing a firearm with the goal of eliminating shootings involving minors by 2032.
Republican State Sen. Matt Dolan introduced a bill last General Assembly that would have enacted red flag laws, which protect the public and the gun owner by temporarily removing a firearm from someone deemed by a judge to be suffering from a severe mental health condition. The bill never made it out of committee.
“All we’ve seen come out of this extremist gerrymandered Statehouse are laws that encourage more gun crimes,” Russo said.
Dayton mass shooting
After a 2019 mass shooting in Dayton killed nine people, chants of “do something” drowned out Gov. Mike DeWine’s speech during a vigil for the victims.
“Even after the calls to do something after a mass shooting — killing our neighbors in Dayton — they’ve turned a blind eye to reality, fact and reason, and passed the most dangerous and reckless gun laws in the history of the state,” Ginther said.
Craig echoed that sentiment.
“Four years after they asked us to do something, and yet the question remains — What have we done?” he asked.
Craig said there have been more than 2,500 mass shootings in the past four years, 101 in Ohio and 21 in Columbus.
“Today it’s about us linking hands and saying very clearly to the legislature … if you can’t do it, then get out of the way so that the municipalities, those that are on the ground, can make decisions about our children and their lives,” Craig asked.
Columbus and gun violence
Columbus has had 88 homicides so far this year and 78 of them involved a gun, Ginther said. The state’s capital has also had 15 domestic violence related deaths.
2021 was the city’s deadliest year on record with 205 homicides. Ginther declared gun violence a public health crisis in Columbus in February 2022 and Columbus City Council passed new gun-control legislation at the end of last year.
“I wake up every morning in my community, hearing gunfire,” Craig said. “This is real, and it’s palatable, we ought to be doing something.”
Jene Patrick remembers opening up Facebook and learning 32-year-old Carrington Willis was killed in a shooting in September 2020. She followed Willis on Facebook and remembered watching him read a book to his daughter’s preschool class on Facebook days before he died.
“We are calling out to our legislators to pass common sense gun safe laws,” said Patrick. “It’s bigger than being Republicans or Democrats. It’s bigger than politics.”
The Columbus Division of Police recovered more than 3,330 firearms last year, the most ever collected, Ginther said. CPD is on track to recover even more guns this year — having already recovered more than 1,900 guns so far this year, he said.
“All of this demonstrates just how deadly and detrimental gun violence is to the safety and security of our communities,” said Ginther.
This story was republished from the Ohio Capital Journal under a Creative Commons license.